COMMENT:

Scammers know it. Salespeople know it. Heck, even kids know it when they're asking you for money.

We part with our money much more easily when we're in an emotional state.

Attempting to make good money choices in such a state is like trying to see in a sandstorm. It's why we should never jump into a car and drive just after a heated argument. Not a good idea.

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But by "emotional" I don't just mean tears are falling or we're head over heels in love. Here are some common scenarios:

• When we're feeling a bit low and think we need some retail therapy

• When a new style or technology has captured our imagination

• When we're excited about making money, through a get-rich-quick scheme or some other "investment" opportunity

• When we've had a difficult day and we just want to "fix" it by throwing money at the problem (like when I grab takeaways for the kids way too often)

Under the ether

Interviews with fraudsters have uncovered patterns of how they exploit how we're feeling. They call it the "ether" of emotion, and when we're under its influence, it's easy for us to fall prey to fraud.

Turns out there are many things that can tip us into that ether, including romance, spirituality or the possibility of winning.

While we're in that state, we are more at risk than ever, and it's no surprise that romance scams, affinity fraud and investment scams are among some of the world's most deviously successful cons.

Then there are all the things we go through in life that can leave us feeling vulnerable. Loss of a loved one – especially a partner, child or even a pet – can put us in jeopardy.

You can see why a scammer or salesperson armed with this information about us has extra leverage – almost a direct line to our bank accounts.

And nowadays, so much of what we're going through is on display through social media. One recent scam victim had a family member say, "We'll just get you started on Facebook" in order to help her recover from her bereavement. This good intention unfortunately made her a target.

Stop. Wait. Validate.

With a tip of the hat to our friends at Age Concern, who are working hard to protect our older New Zealanders, here's a winning formula:

The "stopping" in our tracks is probably the hardest part. But if we can get to the "waiting", it definitely works. With money matters, delaying gratification while we carefully consider our options is highly effective.

But what does "validate" mean? In terms of protecting ourselves from fraud, it's about checking that something is for real, since so much these days is not.

When making money choices in general, "validate" means checking that it's what we really want. It has to fit our plan for our money, both in the short and long terms. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't.

Friends will be friends

The obvious safety valve when we're emotional are those we're closest to. Who in our close circle is going through something? They'll need support, especially if they're making financial decisions.

Some time back I invited a friend along as I was buying a car. "I'm just coming along to watch you get ripped off," he said dryly. That got me haggling! Strangely, I found it quite helpful.

Let's look out for each other out there.

- Get Sorted is written by Sorted's resident blogger, Tom Hartmann (@TomHartmannNZ). Check out the guides and tools from Sorted – brought to you by the Commission for Financial Capability – at sorted.org.nz.